Saturday, November 24, 2007

neediness and thanks.

i don’t have the energy to write this...

BUT i am feeling much better. thank you for asking. i was, as of tuesday, able to eat a full meal.

just in time for thanksgiving...

thanksgiving was surprisingly good in Kigali. the american embassy took it upon themselves to import turkey and pumpkin pie so that we could all feel at home. It was very sweet of them. I’m pretty sure every American in town showed up (there were over 200 in attendance), and waited 45 minutes in line for food (i had to go last because i didn’t RSVP in time... of course :). It was worth every minute. There’s something really beautiful about bonding with other Americans on such occasions. Who said we didn’t have a culture? Jealous europeans, that’s who.
(Justin, Amy, Me and Jenny at Thanksgiving dinner)

AND, thanksgiving morning we played flag football at the sports center in town! there were 25 of us, 4 teams and I scored 3 touchdowns! our team was the best... and that’s all that mattered. My family called me on skype for, I believe, the first time in history, and it absolutely made my day. After dinner, we further stuffed ourselves with popcorn and peanut m&m’s and watched “Love Actually” to get into the “christmas spirit”. it was a good day.

(american football)

i tried calling my parents on skype the other night. i was badly dehydrated because the thought of water was making my gag, so i was calling to see what i should do. the skype connection was splotchy and all they heard was "i'm really sick" in a pathetic voice...and then it cut out. within 5 minutes i had received 5 phone calls from various friends and had a personal visit from the minister of commerce, Rosemary, who brought her husband and her doctor along... by way of her cell phone. over the next few days rosemary was an angel, sending fruit baskets and fresh juice and texting me 3 times a day to check in.

all quite overwhelming, actually. but it's very nice to know you're cared for... even in africa.

when i think about things i’m thankful for... oh forget it. does anyone want to hear another personal dialogue from the girl living in africa on how we should all be more thankful than we are? i’m not so interested in “shoulding” to be thankful... and i doubt you are either. i think we’d all just rather be truly thankful. (Lord, give us all eyes to see what you’ve given us.)

There’s a quote in my new favorite devotional book that says (Jesus is speaking):

“hasn’t it ever occurred to you that this or that grace was given to you because of some prayer said for you, or some priest’s blessing, or what your parents won by their efforts, or because of my divine compassion, or the goodness of My mother? Don’t ever get the idea that the cause is any goodness of your own or anything in yourself.”

“He and I” by Gabrielle Bosis

(ps. every woman i know should own this book. you can get it on amazon or

now, i don’t think Jesus is saying here that we are crap... but saying how much our lives depend on others... on their prayers, their faithfulness, their love. i’m truly humbled by this. my mom prays for me. my grandma prays for me. my friends pray for me. mrs. bell prays for me. the beautiful women in our women’s prayer group listen to the Holy Spirit and pray for me. if i believe that prayer is powerful, which i do, i literally owe them my life. where would i be without their prayers? i don’t really want to know...

when people say “i’m praying for you” i believe them. i try not to use that phrase lightly. because i am saying “i am petitioning to the Lord Almighty on your behalf, that He will do GOOD things in your life!”

wow. how did we ALL get so lucky?

because of an insight of a dear friend, i have been thinking about the nature of my previous blogs. i like writing blogs. it helps me to document my time while communicating with the outside world... but it’s definitely kept to that: semi-personal documentation that i wouldn’t mind if anyone in the world read.

i think the reason i keep my letters within the safe boundaries of humorous stories and sicknesses is because i’m afraid if i talk about the most personal/important thing in my life (i.e. GOD) that it will sound like those missionary letters, which, bless their hearts, i usually have difficulty reading... mostly because they seem inhuman to me (which i know isn’t true... just an impression i can’t shake). and since God is the most human thing i know of... i mean, he’s the most real thing about my humanity... i want to avoid dehumanizing Him at all costs. But i think that’s more of an excuse. i’m probably just scared.

so here i am, i’m in bed, at a guesthouse in Kibuye, waiting for inspiration of what to write. i feel most of my life is that... waiting for inspiration. and in the meantime i either make myself busy, or just sit and wait. each has it’s downside. but the latter option at least leaves room for surprises.

so, what have i done in the last 3 weeks? close to nothing, from my perspective. i spent the first 2 weeks lying in bed, at the mercy of those kind enough to care for me and your prayers. at this point, it’s too hard to justify my presence in africa... so i’ve given that up. when people here ask “what exactly do you do here” i’ve started to say “i don’t really know”. i mean, i have some ideas but they’re all sorta lose associations, not really practical jobs. by the time i got over dysentery, my boss, eric, was bedridden with a virus. figures. oh, satan, you little devil!

i’ve long since given up the notion that i’m here to change africa. mostly i feel like i’m supposed to let africa change me. of course, God through africa. is it changing me? i hope so. i guess you’re a better judge of that than i.

all i know is that when i’m here, I NEED God. I need Him because i’m sick. I need Him because i don’t know what to do when i wake up at 7am, and shopping or hanging out with friends isn’t an option. I need Him to tell me what the hell to do with my life.

i will never forget the time at the AMIA conference, when a rich white guy asked Archbishop Kolini

“what are we, in the west, supposed to do with all our money”

The room full of suburbanites leaned in for the answer.

Archbishop paused for a moment, and replied, simply and unforgettably:

“The question for you is, do you need God? If you need Him, everything will fall into place, if you don’t, you’re in trouble”

This answer has haunted me since that day. How do I NEED God? I mean, I know the ways that I think he might be providing... but even those things are removed, and seen through the lens of my own effort (i.e, you work to eat). But NEED is desperate. It’s needy. You know, NEEDY. Like the relationship that suffocates you. Do I feel that way with God? I don’t think I do very often. The closest I’ve felt to it in a while was lying on that hotel bed in Cameroon, wanting to rip my insides out. I needed God in that moment. And, in that moment, it felt like my life was truly in perspective.(Lord, help us to need you more.)

Because, i think, that only in our need are we in our rightful place... and do we truly see our thankfulness. And it’s not things we SHOULD be thankful for, it’s what we actually are thankful for. Jesus, who loves us terribly, above all.

i don’t know if any of this makes sense. but i have a lot of love for those of you i love...(i think you know who you are) and i’m looking forward, more than ever, to be with you for christmas.

let me know how you’re doing and what you think.

God’s peace,



the images are mostly from the other day when i went to Ruhungo district with my friend, Justin Hughen, to document his work there. this community is made up of refugees from Tanzania [people who fled Rwanda during the genocide and had set up their lives in Tanzania, only to be kicked out by the government, decades later, and have all their possessions taken away (cows, houses, chickens, everything). they were sent to rwanda with nothing but the clothes on their back and are now being set up in random communities, out in the middle of nowhere, without food or work. can you imagine? i can't. in this particular district, 20 (that's 2-0) families were living in one abandoned house, as big as my living room in west chicago].

Justin had installed a water pump a few weeks back and we went out the other day to deliver some blankets and mosquito nets... which doesn't begin to cover the needs of this community. but the most beautiful thing about these people was their gratefulness. not once did they ask for a handout. they only said thanks.

the chief of the village --the one in the picture holding hands with justin-- hitchhiked on a truck carrying beans for 3 hours the other day to come to justin's office, just to say "thank you". (--the story of the ten lepers rings a bell.) after thanking justin, he went to leave, not even asking for 2 dollars for a bus ride back.

when we went back on friday, he presented Justin with this letter:

Dear Sir,

I hereby kindly apply for a job from you which will help me to live.

I’m very courageous and brave to do whatever work or job you can give me, essential is to find how I can get my life.

I hope you will consider this application favorably, and I wish to assure you that I will do my best to give satisfaction if you give me that job.

Faithfully yours,


when we left, he leaned in the window of the car and pointed to Justin and exclaimed: "Dis is my FRE-end!" and then he paused, looked at me and said "an YOU is my NEW friend!"

God bless these beautiful people.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

weddings, cameroon, amoebic dysentery and pulling money out of my underpants... Oh, the many-ness (and mini-ness) of our stories...

i've been lying in bed, wanting to rip my insides out, for 4 days.

as of this morning, thanks to the belgian embassy for letting me use their doctor, i have been diagnosed with Dysenterie Amibienne: translated: amoebic dysentery. comes from the root word "dysentery" from the oregon trail computer game. it really is as gross as it sounds. i, maggie ritchie, am officially "home" to thousands (maybe millions) of little, hairy (probably... just because they have to be as gross as possible) creatures who are living, feasting, procreating and burrowing into the walls of my intestines (and everyone here loves to remind me of what, exactly, is going on inside my body.) in these cases, i make the strong choice to NOT believe in the facts of medicine. it has been said "diagnose are like fairy tales: they're only as true as you want them to be." (but you should still take the medicine you're prescribed:)

[how, exactly, i became the honored hostess of these furry little creatures will come to light later on...]

so, instead of doing something productive in africa (like starting a school or feeding orphans), I'm sitting in my bed, drinking watered-down apple juice and sipping lipton chicken-noodle soup out of an American Embassy mug, and feeding parasites. AND attempting, with my limited amounts of wherewithal, to write another oh-so-brilliant blog. wish me luck.

(judging by the title of this post, there is far too much to tell to keep any of you interested, so i will gracefully highlight and edit my way thru the last month of my life.)


the reason i haven't posted in a while is because, between the dates of October 4th and November 5th, I was home. (Somehow, it seems wrong to write a blog update while in the US. I don't know why. Just one of those things you save for overseas. Like peanut butter and oreos. Don't eat them at home, but if i find them here, i think i'm in heaven.) The lovely Meredith Aulie was married on October 6th, followed by my sister, Eve Annemarie's (aka "Bunny") wedding the following week. Both weddings were breathtaking in their own right. You can't beat an outdoor wedding in October. Meredith's took place at honey rock, where lots of barn dancing and getaway boats were involved, and bunny's was in the field at our house in big rock, beneath a beautiful gray sky and lots of candles.

this is my 5th sibling to marry, so you'd think we'd have the routine down by now. Well, we're not really the sort of family that "gets routines down". So every wedding is another series of "dramatic deja vu"s. Nevertheless, a good time was had by all. I mean, how can you beat a week of the extended Frost clan, the singing von trapps and staying up till 4am playing "who would you marry in your family" games? I know I can't.

i could have done without all the sympathetic looks and the "don't worry, i'm sure you'll find someone" comments. Katelyn Aulie invited me to join the OSNYM (Older Siblings Not Yet Married) club. In our club, we rejoice in our singleness, don't feel sorry for ourselves and utterly reject the notion that just because your younger sibling is married before you, you should feel terrible about your life.

in the last two weeks home, i turned 24 (woo-hoo), spent a lot of time with my beautiful friends and family (whom i appreciate more than ever before) and finished my last 4 tests (!) in Biology 100 at Waubonsee Community College with a smashing 68.5 %. That's 3.5% over what I needed to pass and graduate from Wheaton! I really showed them.


On November 4th, i took off for Cameroon, a medium-sized country (bigger than Rwanda, smaller than Sudan) on the west coast of Africa, for the 3st (you heard me right: 3st... pronounced "THIRST) Annual African Continental Cycling Championships! Our team from Rwanda was competing so Jock Boyer (the team's coach) invited me along. I was the "Technical Advisor" for the team, and I totally fulfilled my roll. I mean, I passed out water bottles and everything... and that required a lot of technical advice ("go, go go! Faster, faster, faster!"). I was awesome

But seriously, Team Rwanda actually was awesome. They got 4th overall (with 16 countries competing) and they only started training in Feb, and before then none of them were trained bikers. it's also a HUGE thing for Rwanda to have something hopeful to put their name back on the map in a positive way. so we were pretty proud of them. and you'll never meet sweeter, more humble athletes (i can say that after spending the week with all the african national teams). no pretense.

(if you have 4 minutes to watch a beautiful video about the team with sweet shots of rwanda, go to

It's basically a music video. you won't be dissapointed, i cry every time... and i don't even like biking :)

I wish you could have seen these guys ride. Some of the best athletes in africa, zero % body fat, trucking up these hills, sweating like pigs, for 3 hours. It was pretty remarkable. And there I was. The out-of-shape white girl, standing the shade and handing out water bottles and jel packs every 12 minutes. :)

"It's a choice"... Jock says.

Cameroon itself was stinky, dirty and i never want to go there again, not ever. I can't really explain it, but something in the air was off. Because I've lived in dirty places before, and it didn't bother me. But this place was dirty on a deeper level. Like corrupt. It made me want to leave from the moment I arrived.* This feeling was aggravated by the fact that we were mostly contained to our hotel. The guys would go out riding and I would walk around the stinky market. But only during the day because at night, I would get attacked, so they told me.

I went to the market one day to take pictures and got yelled at (and i mean told off), at length, by 4 different people for taking photos. In all my years (i'm really old) of taking pictures overseas, that's never happened to me.

one day i was walking in town with my new friends, Daniel and Fre from the Eretrian cycling team (Eretria is a country in east africa, above ethiopia. I'd never heard of it either... and i still can hardly pronounce it). I felt prompted, by the sketchy feeling of the place, to carry all my money in a belt-wallet, under the waistband of my skirt. We stopped to buy some bananas and I dug thru my wallet to find 200 francs. Daniel started giggling and Fre explained, with a grin:

"he is funny at you because you are pulling money from your underpants."

the worst part of cameroon, besides the people yelling at me, being trapped in a ghetto, and keeping money in my underwear, was the endless supply of bad meat sauce...which i couldn't stomach so i ate salad that had been washed with bad water... and the rest is history,

(dysentery enters, Stage Left)

thanks for listening to this somewhat harrowing, somewhat strange tale...


*Mind you, this is simply one person's honest impression of her limited experience of cameroon which is obviously a much larger country. I would hate to do this hurting country further damage by turning everyone completely off to it. It's a dark place, and dark places need light.

ps. if you wish to be further grossed out by the condition in my intestines, or if you just like details, go to

Monday, October 1, 2007

mosquito motos and public toilets

There are two kinds of motorcycles in Kigali:

1. the big ones that look and sound like real motorcycles with over 100 cc's of power
2. the smaller, skinnier, wimpier versions with about 80 cc's of power. they sound like a large mosquito when they ride by.

They tell you never to take the smaller ones.

I walk a half a mile from my house to the road where the motos come by. usally i'm not going anywhere on a time table (TIA) so it doesn't matter how long i have to wait. when i hear the loud buzzing of the weak motos, i just motion my hand to tell them to keep going. today, however, i was meeting Rosette, the minister of tourism, at 2:30. Rosette is very busy, very important and doesn't run on african time. I didn't want to be late.

Waiting for a moto around 2:10... which quickly turned into 2:15... no motos. I began to get desperate. As a mosquito approached, i waved him down. He pulled over and I almost tipped the bike getting on.

(Sidenote: There are many things about driving a moto that worry people around here: how fast they drive; how careless they are; how they overcharge white peopel; the way they pass on the right, inches from the 4 foot-drop rock ditches; the general danger of being on a bike with no protection on your limbs in a 3rd world country... you know, the usual things you woudln't tell your parents. None of those really bother me much. The only thing that I have a hard time with is the helmets.

I mean, thank goodness there is some measure of protection, but sometimes I would rather bash my head against concrete than put one of these helmets on. I'm told they're the best way to get lice in Rwanda. They're consistently moist (from head sweat) and they smell horrible. When you bring the face shield down, you almost get exphixiated by the smell... it's awful. The straps don't often work, so you have to hold the sweaty smelly thing down as you bump around, straddling the skinny hips of an anonymous Rwandan. quite the experience.)

So, the little moto turned down a dirt road to take the "back way", we twisted down a dirt hill, narrowly missing several collisions with women carrying water and baby goats. That wasn't the problem. As we started back UP the hill, the moto slowed to a crawl and eventually stopped moving. The engine was running, it just couldn't propel the mass of two people and a laptop up the dirt hill. So, what did I have to do? Get off and walk. Sweaty-red helmeted, carrying my heavy bag, up a huge-ass hill with (as always) a myriad of laughing spectators. It would have been funny for me as well if it had only happened once, but there were 4 times that I had to get off and walk, with my helmet still on, for over a mile. "Oya hachibazo," I said, out of breath, to the grinning moto driver. Translation: "Not Okay". Probably not my most gracious moment in Rwanda. 40 minutes later, we finally reached the main road. I paid him 300 franks (the equivilant of 75 cents), which was generous, and hopped on real moto. I was late to my meeting, but Rosette was gracious.


If you go into a public bathroom in Rwanda you will be met with one of two scenes:

1. a typical 3rd world set-up: a squatter (basically a hole in the floor with ribbed sides so as you squat, you don't slip in someone elses urine), and a sink without soap.
2. a bathroom that is trying to meet 1st world standards, bless their hearts. I have found these to come with a variety of... how should i say it... surprises?

There are always 4 or 5 people milling around in the women's bathroom at the Union Trade Center (the main shopping center in town). 2 are there to clean, the rest are their friends, men included. They hang out there ALL DAY, sitting on the sinks and the trash bins. When i ask if there's any toilet paper (because it's ALWAYS out), one of the guys will stand up, open the trash bin he was sitting on, and hand me a "fresh" roll of TP. Weird.

And then I am not allowed to leave the room until I use the automatic dryer and I've had my picture taken by at least 2 people's cell phones. I mean, if there's an automatic dryer in the room, why wouldn't you use it? (You'd have to be crazy... or so rich that you carry your own automatic dryer around in your purse.) And if there's a white girl in the room, how could you miss the chance to take her picture? Proof for your friends that white people do, in fact, exist.

I saw the woman who cleans the bathroom outside around town today and she greeted me with enthusiasm. I think she has my picture on her phone.


I will see some of you very soon.

Peace of Christ, dear friends.


ps. I don't have a spellcheck, so please forgive my erors :)

Sunday, September 30, 2007

sleep with enjoy dreams...

Another week passed. Another pile of stories...

There have been numerous requests for me to explain why, in fact, i am in Rwanda. And, while I would like to forgo the question for as long as possible, I supposed if I expect anyone to keep reading my blog, I owe them an explanation, however vague.

(by the way, does anyone know if laptops have the potential to give you cancer? The way it heats my legs seems particularly suspicious to me... I know female mosquito's have the potential to give me malaria. And, at this very moment, there is one buzzing around my head. Hmmm... which heath concern is more pertinent?)

So here goes: (if you feel like you already know this, skip to the **)

I am in Rwanda with an organization called "Friends of Rwanda". Look up for more info. My main job will be help out with the Saddleback PEACE teams that are coming over to Rwanda (PEACE is Rick Warren's plan to save the world through the work of the church... look that up as well). Rick and his ginormous church have a rare and extremely invested interest in this small country. They are sending over 1,000 volenteers in 2008 alone. So, as you can imagine, there is a lot of work to be done. I am working for a Rwandan named Eric Mynumana, who is pretty much a dream boss. I am his funtioning assistant, which really means everything and nothing. I have no idea how my work will play out in a practical, day-to-day manner, but I am certain it will be challenging and exciting. After the end of the year, the hope is that I will have gathered enough information to help Saddleback re-format their "mission to Rwanda". There seems to be a shifting paradigm for missions work in our constantly shrinking world, and I'm functioning, as an observer, to help discover what that might look like. My plan is to be here, with a couple interruptions for weddings and grad-school auditions, until next August.

In addition to this, I will be directing the first ever Musical (!) in Rwanda at Green Hills Academy, the local english-speaking school. We're still in the negotiation stages, but It's looking good. It's funny about Rwanda, everything you do here is a first.


I learned how to ride a motorcycle this week! Apparently the "scooters" I rode in Italy and Argentina didn't count (sorry, meredith:). This one had gears and a clutch and apparently that makes all the difference. Justin was kind enough to trust me on his bike and we rode an hour out of town. It was breathtaking. Every turn was a glittering valley below or a patchwork hill above. The villagers got a HUGE kick out of a white girl driving a bike with a MAN behind! Can you imagine? They couldn't. It was a great day.

I have recently been annexed by the Muzungu community in Kigali. There's probably more than 50 (i may be underestimating quite a bit) young people, from the West, in Kigali. Everytime I go to the (only) coffee shop, I see one ot them. Usually it's a bit awkward, because you don't want to introduce yourself to someone just because you both happen to have the same color skin (can you imagine doing that at home: "Hey, I couldn't help noticing that you're white. My name is Maggie, nice to meet you."? hmmm...). But we all find eachother eventually. Movie night was tonight (Sunday), friday night we have dinner at one of the many resturaunts in Kigali... it's enough to keep us all feeling like the ex-pats that we are. Sometimes it gets a little overwhelming though. I miss the boredom and social limitations of Ruhengeri.

I'm headed home on Tuesday for my little sister's wedding. I will spend the month of October in the US attending weddings before returning to Rwanda.

I can't quite put in to non-cliche terms how GOOD it has been to be in Rwanda for the past month. I can't remember the last time I felt this much at peace and this full of hope. Funny that a country with such an ugly past can give so much hope...but it's in the air here... you can't help but obsorb it and soon it becomes the way you start seeing the world. There is a mark on this country. Everyone who comes here notices it. I feel lucky. Lucky to be here, in Rwanda, soaking up God's blessing.

To close, from the words of the famous poet, Aime (he's the young man who guards my house at night and gives me a scare every time he does his rounds and passes by my window. I think Aime is a saint--literally. I told him today that when he has a bigger mansion in heaven than I do, that I want to come over for dinner):

"I never forget you in my life. sleep with enjoy dreams."


Saturday, September 22, 2007

taking notes at a rwandan wedding

a few things my little sister should think about in regard to her impending nuptials.


have you considered having multiple photographers on stage, while the you and john are saying your vows? they should be stratigically positioned all over, and as CLOSE as possible! i think 8 or 9 (at least) people with point-and-shoot cameras would really capture the moment. oh, and don't bother turning the flashes off, it really brings an air of celebration to the event.

you should also look into buying a 4-octave keyboard (the silver ones with purple keys are the classiest) and have someone (anyone, really) on guard to play a few random chords in between every word spoken in the wedding ceremony. and i mean, EVERY WORD. it works best if you keep some of the chords hanging while you're saying romantic things, like your vows. it has the same effect as an alter-call on television. seriously, the key-board would be a good investment for your marriage.

lastly, in order to make a few extra bucks, you should really consider taking an involentary offering at some point during the ceremony. and, get this, the way you really get their money is to make everyone come to the front and put their money in the same basket, that way, if anyone doesn't want to give you money, they look stupid or selfish. it's really clever. and economical.

please know this sarcastic little instalment was writen with a large amount of fondness in my heart.



Monday, September 17, 2007

jogging in gisenyi

if you can imagine jogging topless through the streets of Manhattan... as julia roberts... that might be a reliable comparison.

every time i go running in rwanda, i tell myself it's not a big deal. it always is. i start out feeling awkward, and then it turns into extreme guilt. like i'm assaulting the country with something they've never seen before. like forcing a 7-year-old to watch the texas chain-saw massacre. a sweaty american girl, running from god-knows-what, i-pod (the value of their house) in hand, and long white legs, blindingly white legs...

inevitably, everyone on the street will stop whatever they're doing (digging, laughing, riding their bikes) and stare, open mouthed and wide eyed (quite literally) until the white legs have vanished from sight.

::yay for cultural exchanges!::

as promised, i am proud to say i just received my first ever business cards. made by "magic graphics" in down-town kigali. It only took 6 hours of waiting and 1 hour of leaning awkwardly over the desk, telling the guy where exactly to put the "f" in friends of rwanda, and promising an hour of piano lessons in return for his service. because of these 2x3 cards, i am officially purposeful in Rwanda. praise the Lord.

the other day, thomas and i got to ride with the Archbishop into Ruhengeri, where thomas has been left to work at Sonrise school. we were under strict instructions to meet the AB at his compound at 9am. now, given thomas' litany of instruments and the taxis that never come, we were running a bit behind. i called the Archbishop around 9:07 to let him know we were almost there.

ring ring

"Hello, Archbishop? This is Maggie"
"Oooohh! Maahggie! How is it with you!"
"Great. I was just calling..." to get straight to it
"How was your sleep?"
"Fine, Archbiship, how was yours?"
"Good. good."
"Good. We're coming..." I said.
"And your breakfast?"
"My breakfast?" I was disarmed again.
"Yes, what did you eat?"
"Um... I had some pineapple"
"And bananas?"
"Uh, no. No bananas."
"And PASSION FRUIT!?" He seemed particularly excited about the passion fruit.
"No, no. Just pineapple... Archbishop," I finally interjected "I just wanted to let you know that we're running a little bit late."
"Ok." There was a slight pause... "Sooooo, you will come around 11 or 12?" It was 9:12am.
"No, Archbishop, I will be there in 2 minutes"


It was another hour before we left the compound. We had to fetch Mrs. Kolini, who had to fetch us tea and show us all the pictures in the house and then fetch us to-go mugs for our tea so it could splash all over our knees on the windy road to Ruhengeri.

"Oh dear," Archbishop Kolini finally sighed as his wife retreated to the house for the fourth time.
"Bishop John is going to shoot at me."

hope this little installment finds you well and full of peace.



Tuesday, September 11, 2007

clubbing in butare and business cards


It's been almost 2 weeks since i last wrote. I've sat down many times to write the next installment in my journey, but i always get a little overwhelmed. There are too many tastes, smells, moments where i've laughed out loud in the street when an unknowing rwandan makes my day and i think to myself "I need to tell this story to my friends at home." and then I think of my beautiful friends at home.... who have their own lives and continue to wake up and drink lattes, go to church and plan weddings, all thousands of miles away. what do i say to them? what part of this silly little experience matters enough to send it (albeit electronically) a thousand miles away?

it's intimidating, to say the least (david wright, i'm afraid, takes the proverbial "intimidation-cake" :) add that to to the fact that I just finished "The Kite Runner" and now my confidence as a writer is significantly diminished in comparison. beautiful book. read it, everyone.

But we all have a story to tell, don't we? Even if it doesn't exactly make sense? so, take a deep breath

:: aaaahhhhh::

...and move forward.

Hmmm. ok. bullet point version (always helpful in school):

Last week:

-Met Dustin and Vaughn, two young dreamers from california starting a bike company in Zambia (, here for the week to check out Project Rwanda (a similar bike project in Rwanda, started by Tom Ritchey: check out the video gallery!)

Highlight: the night we were having a fancy dinner on the hotel's patio complete with live entertainment. Dustin and Vaughn politely asked to borrow the mic (and the band) and sang a riveting rendition of Enrique's "I can be your hero, baby" at the top of their lungs while the crowd of upper-class rwandans cheered.

-Friday, we road-tripped down to Butare, a southern province of Rwanda, for the "Wooden Bike Classic"; a series of 3 races: an 80 mile road race, a coffee-bike race and a 10 mile mountain bike course. "Team Rwanda" cleaned up the medals. The afternoons were spent lounging like fat Americans on the patio of the only suitable restaurant in town. it was a motley crew, comprised of big-shots from NGOs, Olympics-gold-medalists and editors of big magazines (notice how i didn't mention any names. don't want to get into trouble) and those of us who were just there because our dads were. Good people, bad beer, lots in common. What they say is true about doing what you love and meeting people you love because their doing the same thing...? you know, something fortune cookie-ish like that.

-Saturday night, there was a huge dinner held for all those involved in the races (i was invited by virtue of being my father's daughter), complete with rwandan music and dancing. all the muzungus (the local word for "rich" or "white" person) felt left out, so we decided to take matters into our own hands and find our own venue through which to express ourselves. a crummy, hole-in-the-wall called the "safari club" which turned out to be the only place open after 9pm, no competition. to accurately describe the wonders of the safari club would take several pages of writing. suffice to say, the only drinks at the bar were straight-whiskey, banana beer (locally smashed and fermented) and warm coke, and the whole place reeked of urine... as if people were literally wetting themselves while dancing. sorry for the detail. but, as always in these situations, there is strength in numbers. we banded together and had a great time dancing long into the night.

Highlight: glancing over my shoulder to find my little brother thomas in a circle (holding hands) with 5 rwandan men, dancing a sloppy form of what i now call the hokeypokey-caberet with lots of flailing arms. and yes, i regret to say, the rwandans were totally copying him. ever seen the 80's movie "can't buy me love"? it was sorta like that, the guy who has no idea what he's doing appears like he does because he's "popular" or, in thomas' case "white". I finally had to pull thomas away from a gentleman who was dancing a little too close (to put it mildly) for my comfort.

(To tommy's credit, he interacts with Rwandans like a dream. He has enduring patience for the language barrier, doesn't mind the the cultural standards physical contact (male hand holding, etc.) and has only showered twice since we've been here. I think he'll do just fine. Tomorrow (sniff) he leaves for the Orphanage. He, in spite of his relentless clueless questioning, will be sorely missed.)

-the weekend's festivities culminated with a wooden bike race, which (here comes a passive-aggressive side-note) i regret to report i missed on account of justin being grumpy and old-manish. he made us leave early and i was so annoyed that, like a 12-year-old, i didn't speak a word the whole 2-hours' drive home (real mature, maggie).

ok, so those weren't really bullet points as much as huge paragraphs. sorry about that. and i didn't even get to the business cards... but don't anyone freak out. i promise to address the business cards in my next blog.

I still don't have anything close to confidence concerning my presence in Rwanda, but i'm beginning to be more comfortable with that posture as time goes on and i am being met by God in simple and beautiful ways. for instance, i am typing from the couch of my new "home". I've been granted asylum with a lovely couple from the states, Otto and Virginia Helweg. Otto won the equivalent of a Nobel prize for water. He's in Rwanda drilling wells. Virginia, when she's not bird-watching or cooking me food, spends her days teaching art classes and writing a book on the Song of Solomon. I'm so thankful to be here. we have have a beautiful view of the city from our balcony. Free room, board, broad-band, and all the mini-bananas i can eat; What more could you ask for? I'm not exactly roughing it... as they say.

but who cares what "they" say?

goodnight, dear friends.


Wednesday, September 5, 2007

awake at 4:30am

So, i guess i'm not jet-lag-invincible.

After playing "Brick-Breaker" for the past hour on my phone, I figure it's time to do something productive with my awake hours.

In our hotel room. Tommy's trying to sleep (at about 5am, i caught him online looking at finger charts for a concertina, an obscure, accordion-like instrument, which he has yet to get his hands on). I'm trying not to type too loudly.

It's funny, at home, I don't have time to write, pray, think, blog... but in Rwanda, everything changes. The important things you couldn't fit in become priorities and everything else sort of fades away.

As long as I am in this Hotel, I won't feel like I'm in Rwanda. We're getting the red carpet treatment for the week because I'm here with a bunch of potential investors. The Rwanda they see (driving around in SUVs, eating at the best Indian restaurants, helicopter rides, gorillas...) is almost comical. It's great, but not the Rwanda I know and love. This afternoon I head back to the village where I lived and worked 4 years ago, which has since then changed it's name. It will always be Ruhengeri to me. I've been told it has changed significantly. Go figure. That stupid line "the only thing constant in this world is change" is haunting me. Sure, relationships are still there, the sun still rises and it still rains 20 minutes a day, but I am older, we are older. I don't have the same wide-eyed youth I came with last time. I am thinking about my life in a different way now, and that changes everything. I wonder why I am here this time. Who sent me? Or do I just think I was sent? Who's running this show anyways?

Not to get all existential on you... :)

Yesterday, for the day's activity, I set out to find my old friend, Justin. Justin is from Little Rock and was here the last time I was in Rwanda. We were each other's company for those few months at Sonrise. Suffice to say he is a dear friend. I knew he was back in Rwanda, but since I didn't want him to know I was coming, I tried to stealthily find out his coordinates over facebook messages. No luck. All I had was a phone number (which I couldn't call, because I love surprises) and a rough area of town. So, optimistic Maggie jumped in a taxi with a piece of paper with a few scribbled words on it, and 5000 francs (equivalent of about $10). I thought we could just, you know, drive over to that area of town and keep our eyes out for Living Water International (the org. that justin is working with). No such luck. About a half an hour later, after driving up and down all the main roads in Kigali, I finally asked the taxi driver to call Justin on my phone and ask where he was. The taxi driver agreed. But when the call went through, he simply said "he" and thrust the phone into my hands. Unwilling, at this point, to give up the game, I hung up. I asked if there was any type of operator or 411 number to call. He just looked confused. Stupid question, Maggie. They don't even have phonebooks. I saw a sign for a guest house "near-by" so I said "let's try going there and see if someone can help us". The guest house turned out to be 2 miles away on a treacherously bumpy road. Like, 2 foot ravines running through the dirt. We finally arrived and I went in. There was a sweet man behind the desk who agreed to call Justin. I found out later that he made up some story in Kinerwandan about wanting to come for a meeting about water. Very clever, very kind. We were back on the road with the name of the building. After another 10 minutes of driving, we came to the "Ministry of Infrastructure". This must be it. I ran up the steps only to find a totally deserted first floor. "Does anyone know where Living Water International is?" No, they didn't. The security guard didn't, the 7 people milling around by the side door didn't, and all the doors were locked. Great. But then came a woman in high heels carrying a brief case... she looked promising. Sure enough, she knew how to get up to the second floor. I went up to the second floor. Again, does anyone know where LWI is. Nope. I asked a woman behind a desk for someone who spoke better english. "Yes" she said, but didn't move. "Can you go get her?" I asked. "Yes" she said "Wait". 5 Minutes later, a woman comes out. I ask again. Sure enough, she knows that there is a white man called Justin who works one floor up. Stupid me, this whole time I was asking for Living Water International when I could have just been looking for Justin. So, I go up the stairs and, sure enough, there's Justin, talking on his cell-phone with his endearing southern drawl. If only I could have bottled his face. Suffice to say, he was surprised. It was well worth the pains.

Woah, sorry, that took a little longer than most stories, but, hopefully, it will give you an idea of how things work around here. That episode is an everyday occurrence here. So, when the questions arise about what exactly I'm doing here, I will smile, say something about the Archbishop and, in my mind, refer to this anecdote. Who am I kidding to make plans? As westerners like to say "TIA" (This is Africa). "Plans", in the western sense, don't really fly here.

I could say something now about our meetings with Bishop John and the Archbishop and where I plan to live and work etc., but I don't know much at this point and I'm afraid I've written too much already. If I keep up this pace, you'll all lose interest. Suffice to say, I am embarking on an adventure which (quite literally) only God knows about. It's a wonderful and terrifying place to be. Before leaving, I was prayed over by two trusted friends who both said they had a strong sense I would benefit greatly from God's word during this time and that this would be new season of experiencing God in a way I never have before. Please pray for me, if you want. There is much to be revealed...

and more writing to come...

Peace, all,

ps. Thomas is now playing his banjo in the corner chair. i hope the room next to us can't hear.

if there's one thing certain about this year, it's Thomas' music :)

Sunday, September 2, 2007

the time has come my little friends

hello, world.

Whelp, here it is... my first ever blog. HA! watch me do that thing that only "those people" do.


because the internet connection in Rwanda is much to volatile to trust the group email system. This way, when the electricity goes out because someone in the village used a hair-dryer, the eloquence is safe in the arms of google.

what a relief.

I don't have much to say because I'm currently at Frost Lake Day... enjoying the last few moments of family togetherness, but tomorrow I depart, and I can guarantee a few traveling goodies by next week.

So, now we are established. Blog, nice to make your acquaintance.